Japan’s Nuclear Reactors No Threat to Seattle
Despite the grim news coming from Japan, where each day seems to bring new fires and explosions in quake- and tsunami damaged nuclear reactors, Seattleites stocking up on iodine to protect their thyroid glands are jumping the gun.
UW meteorologist Cliff Mass contends that even should radioactive material make it outside a containment vessel, “there is no serious radiation threat to us here in the Northwest.” At 7,000 km from Japan, we’re simply too far away. (Seattle is some 8,700 km from Chernobyl–how worried were you about that?)
…the radiation would mix through huge volumes of the atmosphere due to horizontal and vertical mixing. Since it would take days to reach us, there would be time for larger particles to settle out and precipitation would wash some out as well. Even for Chernobyl, where the core exploded while the reactor was powered up and where there was no containment, serious radiation only extended roughly 1000-1500 km away.
“At Chernobyl a huge explosion was followed by a fire which raged for 10 days and emitted a huge amount of radiation which spread over a vast area,” points out the BBC. Nuclear proponents, as well, have been at pains to differentiate Japan’s situation from Chernobyl’s, swimming upstream against a tide of breathless media coverage of “meltdowns.”
No, it’s Japan and its neighbors who are nervously checking to see which way the wind blows, and nearby residents and workers at the plants who are bearing the brunt of any spikes in radioactivity following explosive venting from the suppression chamber (not the containment vessel).